The confirmed death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic surpassed 4 million on Wednesday, according to the World Health Organization, which warned against the premature lifting of restrictions in the face of the fast-spreading Delta variant.
It took roughly 9 months for the death toll to reach 1 million, 4 months for the second million, 3 months for the third, and just 82 days for the fourth. The true figure, however, is thought to be much higher as most countries have reported excess deaths which surpass the coronavirus death toll.
“The world is at a perilous point in this pandemic,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news briefing on Wednesday. “We have just passed the tragic milestone of four million COVID-19 deaths, which likely underestimates the overall toll.”
Vaccines have been credited with preventing hospitalizations and deaths since they became available in late 2020, but many countries have yet to achieve sufficient vaccine coverage. This comes amidst the rise of the Delta variant, which is fueling new outbreaks around the world.
Michael Ryan, the head of WHO’s emergencies program, urged countries to use “extreme caution” in the lifting of restrictions to avoid losing the gains that were made. “What we are seeing, even in Europe, all regions of WHO, [is] increasing cases,” he said.
The novel coronavirus, officially known as SARS-CoV-2, first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. The virus has spread to nearly every country on Earth, infecting at least 140 million people. Millions more were infected without getting tested.
More than 600,000 deaths from coronavirus have been reported in the U.S. alone, making it one of the worst-affected countries in the world. It is followed by Brazil (526,892), India (404,211), Mexico (233,958), and Peru (193,588).
How the death toll evolved